KL to probe Malaysian firms’ role in forest fires

THE BIG HAZE

MALAYSIA is looking into a complaint by the Indonesian authorities that two Malaysian firms were also responsible for starting the forest fires in Riau.

Malaysia’s Science, Technology and Environment Minister Datuk Law Hieng Ding told The Straits Times yesterday that he was aware that two Malaysian companies had been accused of violating the ban.

“We are looking into this issue and trying to verify the status of these firms,” he said.

“We want to know whether Malaysians are major or minor shareholders in these companies. It will add a different texture to the issue when this comes to light.”

News reports yesterday quoted Riau Governor Soeripto as saying that the two joint-venture firms were involved in burning forests to open up their plantations.

His comments follow on the heels of strict government action against plantation and forestry companies for violating a ban against land clearing by burning.

The ban was ordered by President Suharto earlier this month in the wake of the worsening haze conditions as a result of forest and land fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan which have destroyed 300,000 ha of forests since July this year.

The Straits Times understands that Datuk Law had requested Indonesia’s Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja to provide him a list of all Indonesia-Malaysia joint venture firms in the country and the shareholder details of these firms.

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